To build a cabin, part 7

Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Centre,
Monday, December 12, 2011

We've never done this before, so I've written about what we tried to do, the things that went wrong and what we ended up doing. I hope that someone finds this useful but don't use it as an instruction manual! Check out Tony Wrench's book "Building a low impact roundhouse" for the proper instructions.

Part 7   

Our last day in the woods. We had hoped that by the time we vacated the woods to have completed the frame. We were delayed by waiting for a long drill bit from UK and our short trip back. However, the weather was extremely gentle and we were working in good conditions with only a little rain and it wasn't too cold. So we weren't frozen out of the woods until we left for Christmas. So how far have we got?


On the last day, Laura and I had a go at the inbetween rafters or the little rafters. I don't know the real word for these. As the roof is a cone, the main rafters start from one point and spread out. By the time they cross the wall, they are over a metre apart and further still at the edge of the eaves. This is too wide a gap. A carpenter/joiner we know commented that in a modern building, the rafters are never more than 60cm apart. It seemed a good idea to put in some inbetween rafters. These would be shorter than the main rafters as they would start lower down the frame but then extend to the edge of the eaves. 


We secured the top of the roof, where the main rafters met in a circle, with the remnant of the strong fencing wire (that we lassooed the walls with). This was to prevent any rafter somehow slipping out whilst we were messing around with the frame. Theoretically it shouldn't need it but we thought it to be a sensible precaution.

How far down to start the inbetween rafters? We worked out where would look pretty and fit for purpose (dividing the span between the rafters to a suitable gap remembering that we were planning to weave the roof). We measured from the wall up the rafters to get the same distance, and then checked it by measuring down from the circle in the centre, marking with string. This showed how the hole in the centre of the roof is neither central nor circular and the start point for the little rafters looked messy! In the end we did it by eye.


First off we marked and trimmed an inbetween rafter so it would sit flush against the side of the main rafter. Balancing precariously on the slippy wooden frame, I tied it on with string at the top. Laura had to hold the rafter to stop it slipping off or rolling. I drilled/augered through the rafter and into the wall plate (not all the way through obviously). Then we dropped a peg in to the hole and moved on to the next one. Sounds so simple when I write it like that. However, it took all day to do six rafters, especially as the inbetweener would slip round the main rafter and I'd have to climb back up the main rafter to reposition it. Plus, working as fast as I could, I fell almost off the frame, landing on my shins on the wall plates astride a rafter. Not the best conditions to be working in!

We managed to get half the inbetween rafters on. Another day's work is required to put the last 6 on, plus a spacer over the doorframe. Unfortunately, we're not there to complete it. Once the frame is ready, the lop from the coppicing will be used to weave the walls and roof. 

So the last of the work to be done includes finishing the inbetween rafters and then weaving the walls and roof. Windows have been donated from a heap in someone's shed (they were destined for the tip). The walls will be finished with cob.  Weaving the walls and applying cob is a very traditional. We've not seen a woven roof before but I'm sure someone's done one! So either it'll work or it won't. It seems to be a good idea because it will give a solid structure on the roof, firming up all the joints and providing a substantial surface to either run water off (with plastic on top) and/or to accommodate another roof covering. Plastic sheeting (another freebie) will be used to waterproof the roof and then it will be thatched with large long bundles of brush, similar to a traditional heather thatch, fixed in place possibly with cob depending on how it sticks to the plastic and the waterproofness of the thatch (cob will wash away if rain penetrates the thatch and runs down the plastic). Maybe we shouldn't put plastic on it. Well these are the plans at the moment, but we have changed plans and ideas all the way through this as we've experimented at each step and this has been part of the immense pleasure I've had in tackling this project. I'm a bit sad to be leaving it now.  I hope to do more of this sort of thing in the future, maybe even a bit more competently!

Thank you, Julie and Peter, for giving us the chance to have a go, for providing lots of ideas and solutions when we got in a pickle, and for helping out with the heavy bit - lifting the rafters in to position and then drilling all them holes!
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Peter on

Thanks To the both of you for this brilliant record of the building. We will try and
record all further stages of development if you are not here. We are really looking
forward to getting back to do a bit more.

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